Regional analysis of litter quality in the central grassland region of North America

TitleRegional analysis of litter quality in the central grassland region of North America
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsMurphy KL, Burke IC, Vinton MAnn, Lauenroth WK, Aguiar MR, Wedin DA, Virginia RA, Lowe PN
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Date Published2002
Call Number00789
Keywordsarticle, articles, C3, litter quality, C4, litter quality, grassland, dynamics, grassland, precipitation, journal, journals, lignin, litter, litter, C, litter, lignin, N ratio, precipitation, ecosystem dynamics, precipitation, effects on vegetation, precipitation, grassland
AbstractThe central grassland region of North America is characterized by large gradients of temperature and precipitation. These climatic variables are important determinants of the distribution of plant species, and strongly influence plant morphology and tissue chemistry. We analyzed regional patterns of plant litter quality as they vary with climate in grassland ecosystems throughout central North America including tall-grass prairie, mixed grass prairie, shortgrass steppe, and hot desert grasslands. An extensive database from the International Biological Program and the Long-Term Ecological Research Program allowed us to isolate the effects of climate from those of plant functional types on litter quality. Our analysis of grass species confirms a previously recognized positive correlation between C/N ratios and precipitation. Precipitation exhibited a similar positive relationship with lignin/N and percent lignin. Although there was no significant correlation between temperature and C/N, there was a significant positive relationship between temperature and both percent lignin and lignin/N. Among functional types, C3 grasses had a slightly lower C/N ratio than C4 grasses. Tall grass species exhibited higher C/N, lignin/N, and percent lignin than short grass species. This understanding of the regional patterns of litter quality and the factors controlling them provides us with a greater knowledge of the effect that global change and the accompanying feedbacks may have on ecosystem processes.
Reprint EditionIn File (11/04/2002)